Emergency temporary housing for your hermit crabs

Land hermit crabs require a properly set up crabitat to survive and thrive in captivity. Sometimes we may not be able to provide that right away or we need a temporary housing set up because we are moving to a new home or we are faced with evacuating our current home. Perhaps you just bought your first hermit crabs and have discovered that the Kritter Keeper you were sold is NOT a sufficient home but can’t afford or don’t have immediate access the proper supplies. In these circumstances you can set up a temporary crabitat.

The MacGyver crabitat (ideal for emergency short term housing when money is tight):

This is a compilation of information you can use as a TEMPORARY way to get your crabitat livable until you can get your hands on real supplies.  These suggestions are just for a few days, no crab should live with these forever.

Thanks to Anne Grady for compiling everyone’s suggestions!


Gather leaves and small twigs from your yard, as long as you are sure that the trees were not sprayed with pesticides. These can be lightly moistened and will help with the humidity as well.
If you have moss nearby, that, again, you know is pesticide free gather as much of this as you can. It works well for temporary bedding and will hold moisture and help with humidity.
Cut a chunk of grass out of your yard, roots and all, maybe 2” deep. Again be sure it has not been sprayed. The soil will be damp and if you mist it will help with the humidity.
If you live near a beach and can gather beach sand (and it is not illegal to do so) you can use that. However, beach sand may have insects and bacteria you don’t want so it is safest to bake it at a low temp for about an hour. Allow to cool and moisten to sandcastle texture before putting in tank. Sandcastle wet is moist, but not dripping. If you poke a hole with your finger the hole should stay open when you take your finger out.


A glass bottle filled with hot water will help raise the humidity and help with heat. Even after it cools it will continue to evaporate and increase humidity.
Clean an old spray bottle. I wouldn’t use one that had cleaning products in it, hermit crabs are very sensitive to chemicals. However, one that you used to dampen your hair with water or one that had an organic product in it should be fine. Misting, lightly every few hours will help keep the air moist.
The cardboard tubes from paper towels or toilet paper can be used as places to hide and slightly moist will also help with your humidity.
Your water dish will also evaporate and help with this as well.
Once the tank is finished, everything in that you can think of, seal the top with saran wrap to keep in the heat and humidity you are working so hard to get right.


A human heating pad taped on the outside of the glass will offer warmth. Remember you are heating the air, not the substrate, so put it above whatever you are using for sub.
Dry beans or rice, placed in a sock and heated in the microwave will be nice and hot. Wrap the sock in another hand towel so that the crabs are protected from being burned. Beans stay not longer.
If you are an outdoors family you may have hand/foot warmers. These can be placed in old socks or wrapped in a towel and placed in the tank.
A clean red brick or fair size rock can be heated in the oven, wrapped and placed in tank. Be careful, these are heavy and should be put down gently so as not to break the tank.
A hot water bottle can be used.
If you live in a place where it is common to use an under counter pipe warmer, these should work on the outside of the glass.
A bottle filled with hot water will add both heat and humidity.


Hermit Crabs will eat almost anything you will eat. Check your ‘fridge for apples, tomatoes and carrots. Peel them if you aren’t sure they are pesticide free.
Boil an egg. Put the shell in the crabitat, they love it. Put small pieces of the egg in the food dish, save the rest for another day.
They love bananas and cooked rice.
Small pieces of any meat you are cooking for your family. Take the crabs’ piece off before you season and cook it.
They will eat leaves so if you are using these for substrate, be sure they are from trees on the safe list files at Crab Street Journal.
They will chew and eat sticks from the same safe list of trees.
Organic honey and peanut butter are favorites, if you have them handy please share.


If you have bottled water, great! This will work well.
If you have to use tap water, it should be boiled to help remove the chlorine and any other chemicals from the treatment process. This is not a great solution, but better than nothing and they MUST have water.


Any small glass or plastic dish or jar lid will work for food. If you recycle you probably have exactly what you need. Avoid metal, it is not good for your new babies.
Water dishes should be deep enough and wide enough for the crab to get in it and be covered at least half way, deeper is better, but this is a temporary set up. Those cute sandwich boxes you bought for your younger children to take to school, that are hiding under some counter now, are great! Really look in those cupboards and the recycle bin, you have something you just have to find it!

Crabs truly need a place to hide away. You can use an old butter tub or yogurt container or any smaller plastic “cup”, cut a “door” in one side and there you go!

Beth Carducci
Angela Sanchez Wardel
Jenny Velasquez
Vanessa Pike-Russell
Michelle Archambault
Amber Miner
Heather Barnhart
Stacy Herbet Larmeu
Will May
Anne Grady
Stacy Griffith

Amber Miner put together these great photos to go along with the MacGyver Crabitat:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The storage bin crabitat (ideal for moving or an evacuation or short term housing):

A good sized plastic storage bin can quickly be converted to a temporary crabitat. If you are planning to move I would suggest setting up the bin well in advance and as your crabs surface, move them to the bin. This should reduce the likelihood of being forced to dig up molters when moving day arrives. For this scenario the substrate in the bin should be shallow. You don’t want crabs underground trying to molt in your bin when you are going to be moving it all about, the molt caves will collapse. Using just eco earth alone will make the bin light enough to move easily.

If you live in a region where weather related evacuations are a possibility, it would be a good idea to have a bin and the needed supplies on standby.

Here is a video on setting up a bin for your hermit crabs: